chapter  3
20 Pages

Sufism and the veneration of saints in Central Asia

On 28 July 1998, I made my first ziyorat (visit) to one of Bukhara’s numerous shrines. This was also my first working day with my field assistant Baxtiyor, a young student of English philology at Bukhara State University. Together with Baxtiyor, I started visiting Bukhara’s avliyo (saints) around a month after my first arrival in the city. Baxtiyor himself had paid ziyorat during most of his life, and with much success. Before his entrance examination to the university, for example, he had visited Bukhara’s Seven Pirs1 and was subsequently admitted with the best exam results in his year. And so he thought I was very clever to have planned fieldwork that would take me on a tour to the avliyo of Bukhara, because they would make sure that the work would not fail. I spent a couple of months seeking out avliyo with Baxtiyor: those he knew, those members of his family knew, and those we found thanks to the help of locals, notably taxi drivers, who showed impressive skills in navigating wreck-like Ladas and Volgas around remote corners of the city and its surroundings and tracking down sacred spots there.